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Sharing Stories-Strengthening AR Communities

Each month, the Community, Professional Economic Development (CPED) unit will explore a different theme related to our mission, vision, and the work being accomplished to develop communities across the state.

A great way to capture this work is through stories: stories of impact, stories of change, stories of challenge. This can be the work of individuals, businesses, organizations, and UADA professionals that are striving to improve the quality of life for all Arkansans. We will capture and share these stories via social media, our newsletter, and other forms of communication.  

Share your community story and learn from the stories of others, as you help co-create a new community online—a space that preserves experiences, sheds light on challenges, fosters new insights, and hopefully inspires others.

What is CPED's Mission & Vision?


We are committed to building resilient and inclusive communities while enhancing the wellbeing of Arkansans.  


We strengthen the capacity of individuals, businesses, organizations, and UADA to build inclusive and sustainable communities through research-based resources and processes. 

What do we mean by “strengthen the capacity” or capacity building?

When we talk about ways we strengthen capacity, we support a community or individual’s ability to grow and flourish. Capacity building is an investment in the future sustainability of a community or organization through the impact of its people.

How Can You Share Your Story?

There are four different ways to share your story with us: narrative text, video recording, voice recording, or pictures/captions. Pick the format you are most comfortable with or the one that best captures the essence of your experience.

  1. narrative text - under 300 words as Word doc or text in form field.
  2. video recording - under 60 seconds. You can use your phone or Zoom to record.
  3. voice recording -  Please try to keep your audio clip at or under 60 seconds. You can use your phone or record your audio using zoom.
  4. pictures/captions - For each picture, you share, be sure to add a description (caption) in the text box(es) below to provide readers with context. Feel free to submit as many “story submissions” as you want.

Please Note: We ask that you only upload one file type per story. You can share up to five different stories using this form by having one story per format. 

Have a Story but Feel Stumped?

If you aren’t sure if you have a story related to one of our themes, feel free to review the prompting  questions below. Each theme will have a set of questions you can use to reflect and help frame your story. These questions are designed to simply guide and are not required. 

Check Out Our Monthly Themes & Share Your Story!


Finding Purpose through Action: What Does it Take for Citizens to Make Change?

Have you ever volunteered to help with a community-wide clean up or signed a petition for a new park to be built in your neighborhood? Have you ever voted in an election or worked with a group tasked with reimagining  your Main Street or downtown? If so, you have played a role in making your community a better place by being active in civic discussion and citizen action.

Active citizenship means people, businesses and organizations getting involved in their local communities. Active citizenship can be as small as educating young people about democratic values, or as big as coordinating a strategic planning process for your community or region. No matter the initiative, citizen involvement is crucial for the long-term sustainability and growth of a community.

We all have the power and responsibility to co-curate our communities — to shape them into the places we are proud of both professionally and personally. We seek to capture and share ways Arkansans are actively participating in their communities, looking for new ways organizations and businesses can help make change, and acting boldly in leading efforts for citizens to pave the way.

Stories From the Ground Up: What Does Citizenship in Action Look Like?

In communities, stories of citizens in action may look like identifying and addressing issues or exploring how to engage people in community-wide efforts. In organizations, citizens in action may look like the development of new affinity groups due to societal unrest or new ways of amplifying employee voices.

Calico Rock

For example, Calico Rock is having a renaissance downtown and on Main Street. Just four years ago, Main Street was full of empty buildings with little to attract the tourists that so desperately wanted activities for the whole family. Today, Main Street is filling up with budding businesses and a variety of activities, boutiques, and entertainment for the whole family. This resurgence of downtown Calico Rock is thanks to citizens in action who saw the need for business and city leaders to do something about their town.

Many would contribute recent growth and development to the Calico Rock Museum and Visitor's Center, which is also located on Main Street. Dedicated volunteers and community leaders have been hard at work giving Main Street a facelift. Murals that once told the history of the town were beyond repair and contributing to a "run down" look for Main Street. Thanks to community efforts and funding through CREATE BRIDGES, those murals were turned into new displays to showcase the rich history of Calico Rock with new paint and metal-works signage. Calico Rocks success is one example of community development and economic development intersecting thanks to the charge of citizens taking on the task.

UADA Employees

For the UADA community, citizens in action can be observed in the great work of 4-H programs working to educate young people about the importance of civic engagement. It also looks like UADA’s internal leadership program i-lead, where employees come together every month to learn about the Division, participate in leadership development, and discuss ways to improve the Division as a whole.

We hope you share your own and take-away someone else’s story or example that touches your own experience, inspires you for action, and deepens your understanding of the work of UADA’s community, professional, and economic development.

Questions to Ponder…

  1. How are your citizens taking action to improve the quality of life of your community, organization, or business?
  2. How is your business or organization helping create change in your community?
  3. How have priorities shifted in your community? How are people acting in new ways as a result?
  4. What else do you want to share about experiences, challenges, and triumphs with citizens in action — both personally or professionally?

Submit Your Story Now!

renewal in your community

Finding Purpose in Return: What Does it Mean to Turn Towards Renewal?

Merriam Webster’s dictionary defines renew as “restore to freshness, vigor, or perfection” (Merriam Webster, 2022.) After two years facing the COVID-19 pandemic, communities, individuals, businesses, organizations, and UADA professionals are finding new ways to envision our purpose, restore its freshness, engage stakeholders and partners, and explore creative approaches to our work. (BOLD)

Everyone was changed by the COVID-19 pandemic in some way—professionally or personally. We seek to capture and share ways Arkansans are looking anew at their work, envisioning new ways to engage volunteers and community members, and acting boldly in ways that create lasting change.

Stories From the Ground Up: What Does Renewal Look Like?

In communities, stories of renewal may look like finding new ways to connect and celebrate each other or adapting community favorite activities to make them work in a world that has been changed by COVID-19. 

Russellville, AR 

For example, the Main Street Russellville program has taken a community favorite event, their quarterly Art Walks, and used them to inspire new events that fit into a world changed by COVID-19. These Art Walks, which by their nature are outdoor, were socially distanced events that featured local artists, food trucks, and downtown businesses in the streets of downtown Russellville. While the city was not able to host their traditional Christmas events in 2020, Main Street Russellville, The City of Russellville, and the Chamber of Commerce partnered to host The Holiday Glow Festival. The festival was a way to take holiday traditions like lighting contests, hot chocolate, and local shopping outside into a safer atmosphere. The Holiday Glow Festival has been held the last two years and has quickly become a fan favorite in its own right.

UADA County Agents 

For the UADA community, renewal is the great work of county agents like Lez Walz and Brad McGinley who are looking for new ways to engage their community in programming--reaching out in conversation with community members to understand what is important to them and how they can bring their interests, passions, and expertise to create a vibrant, vital place to live and work.

We hope you share your own and take-away someone else’s story or example that touches your own experience, inspires you for action, and deepens your understanding of the work of UADA’s community, professional, and economic development.

Questions to Ponder…

  1. How is your community finding new ways to envision its purpose, restore its freshness, engage stakeholders and partners, and explore creative ways to build community?
  2. How is your community celebrating the people that work and live there?
  3. How have priorities shifted in your community? How have your own priorities shifted?
  4. How do you see your community incorporating new ideas while honoring or maintaining traditions of the past?
  5. What else do you want to share about experiences, challenges, and triumphs with renewal—both personally or professionally?

Amy Cole, Pulaski County 

Amy is the Digital Media Program Manager at the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture, Cooperative Extension Service in the Information Technology Departmamyent.
After nearly two years of working remotely, many of us were ready to connect in person in 2021. That was the year the internal leadership program, iLEAD opened as an opportunity for employees.
I was thrilled to be admitted into the iLEAD program and have the opportunity to tour our research facilities throughout the state. iLEAD is an internal leadership program for Division of Agriculture employees whereby we learn from peers and understand better the role of our research and extension programming statewide. As a participant, I have enjoyed learning how each research station and even many county offices weathered the pandemic and upheld high standards of research and outreach.
I have gained a deeper understanding of the mission of the Division and the history of our work in both global and local communities. This leadership training opportunity has allowed me to integrate what I've learned into my job as an online marketing professional, which, in turn, helps me spread the mission of the Division to more diverse audiences through digital communications.
Finally, the friendships and connections I've made over the past year have further impressed the importance of such leadership programs. Learning about everyone's role in the Division has expanded my knowledge of how important each person is in what they do. I look forward to seeing more participants take advantage of the learning opportunities in iLEAD going forward.

Submit Your Story Now!

For questions or other matters, please e-mail Emily Smith at or call at 603-387-1584.